When Garuda, the short-lived Indonesian restaurant around the corner from Taste Café and Marketplace closed last summer, we weren’t planning on the owners reopening its doors just a few months later. We were surprised to hear that original owner Peter Oomkes‘ son, Helger Oomkes, recently reopened the spot as SoBro Cafe (653 E 52nd St., 317-920-8121).
Many things have changed since the closing, including new front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house crews. Helger hired Joseph Lehner, formerly of Mikado Japanese Restaurant, as the operations manager and chef Jennifer “Jenxie” Laughner (former chef of the Earth House Cafe in the Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church building).
This compact neighborhood restaurant is cozy and welcoming, with a friendly waitstaff and lunch and dinner prices in the $4 to $14.95 range. The international menu has vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options—along with omnivorous fare. The Dutch owners stay true to their roots this time around, offering 11 pannekoeken, or Dutch-style pancakes. We enjoyed the bacon-and-chocolate version with a zesty mango chutney and the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Another highlight was the corn fritters, made with sweet and juicy corn kernels with two housemade dips (go for the tangy Mexican sour cream). The chai is made in-house, with a strong punch from the freshly ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and ginger. A few local brews from Sun King and Upland are also available, along with a small list of wines, but no liquor in sight.